Yesterday, I wrote a list of the ten best episodes of Game of Thrones in the history of the series, which had to have included at least a handful of your favorites, given how most of these are just empirically great entries in the series, from the Rains of Castamere to the Battle of the Bastards.
I was going to write a list of the ten worst episodes after that, but as I did research, I realized that Game of Thrones is not really a sliding scale. While its top episodes are between 9.6 and 9.9 on IMDB, there are only a scarce handful of episodes at the “bottom” between 8.5-8.6. And then there’s one…special episode.
There a single episode that is an 8.1 on IMDB, a full half a point lower than any other single episode in the series, and unlike the top episode list, it’s one where critics on RottenTomatoes also agree with fans, as it’s the only Rotten-rated episode in series history with a 55%.
Do you know what it is? I’ll give you a hint:
How about now?
How about now?
Now you’ve got it, right? Yes, it’s Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken, the sixth episode of the fifth season, which despite its cool name, is the worst episode of the series, worst than any Ed Sheeran cameo, worse than anything, really. Why?
There were two main reasons why everyone hated this episode. The first was the horrific fight sequence with the Sand Snakes in Dorne. Everyone already hated the Sand Snakes. Everyone already hated the Dorne plotline. And then it all combined in just a terribly choreographed, scripted fight sequence in a show normally known for getting these things right. It was truly goofy in every way and I’m still haunted by it to this day.
But that wasn’t all.
This was also the episode that featured the sham marriage between Ramsay Bolton and Sansa Stark, one of the show’s hard deviations from the books, as in the source material it’s Sansa’s friend, Jeyne Poole, who Ramsay marries while claiming she’s really Arya Stark.
The problem with this turn is that instead of some no-name character being married off to Ramsay, it’s Sansa, the same Sansa that has already endured so much in her horrific marriage to Joffrey and manipulation by Littlefinger. But here, Ramsay not only marries Sansa, but brutally rapes her onscreen. While that may have been what was likely to happen given how evil Ramsay is, Game of Thrones made a point of showing as much excruciating detail of it as possible. There was no implication of abuse, they actually showed the rape. Even a show that has shown lots of sex and violence before, I think nearly everyone, critics and fans alike, agreed that the sequence was unnecessary and went way too far.
Combine these two things, plus some other boring stuff with Arya’s faceless training and Tyrion and Jorah doing nothing, and you have a recipe for the most hated episode of the series. A well-deserved honor, given how truly terrible it was.
I don’t imagine we are going to see anything this bad in the carefully planned final six episodes of Game of Thrones in season 8, though I suppose anything’s possible. Let’s just try to forget this ever happened. Really the entire Dorne plotline. Really the entire Ramsay/Sansa marriage concept (Littlefinger trading her off like that never made any sense for his character). It was years ago, but still awful to this day, and I hope we never see anything like it again.